5 Easy Food Recipes For Children To Sleep Better
- Children and teenagers need more sleep than the average adult for their body and mind to function optimally.
- Foods that have saturated fats and added sugar should be eliminated from a kid’s meal or snack around dinner time.
- Foods that have good fats, fiber, magnesium, potassium, melatonin and serotonin are ideal for a kid’s nighttime meal or snack.
- Parents who are able to establish a regular bedtime for their kids, also see their kids falling asleep more easily.
- A variety of easily available food items contain nutrients and organic chemicals that support sleep, and these should be included in a youngster’s diet.
Is it your endless quest as a parent to find the foods that will help your child sleep better? That’s a worthy quest, indeed. Not only do you, as a parent, get enough rest when the child sleeps soundly all night, there’s also the fact that sleep is a very important part of a child’s mental and physical development.
Lack of sleep lowers the levels of the growth hormone, which is responsible for regulating biological events in the body and can stunt growth. Lack of sleep causes irritability, increased stress, forgetfulness, difficulties with learning, and low motivation. Over time, it can contribute to anxiety and depression. Getting enough sleep helps kids release stress and feel more energized, making them better able to learn and grow.
It’s important to stock up on foods to help toddlers sleep, as children at this age, when they’ve begun asserting themselves, can be quite fussy eaters. They also tend to wake up sometimes in the middle of the night and call out for their parents, and it can be difficult to make them get back to bed. What you want are foods that help toddlers sleep through the night for their own peace and yours, too.
Besides, good sleep is good for your kids’ grades. According to The Sleep Foundation, United States, in addition to having a direct effect on happiness, research shows that sleep impacts alertness and attention, cognitive performance, mood, resilience, vocabulary acquisition, learning, and memory. Sleep also has important effects on growth, especially in early infancy. At a later stage, in toddlers, napping appears to be necessary for memory consolidation, executive attention, and motor skill development.
The amount of a child’s sleep depends on their age and can vary significantly from one to another. According to guidelines from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine:
- Infants 4-12 months: Need 12-16 hours total in 24 hours
- Children 1-2 years: Need 11-14 hours total in 24 hours
- Children 3-5 years: Need 10-13 hours total in 24 hours
The National Sleep Foundation, United States, offers guidelines for older children and teenagers:
Children up to 13 years: Need 9-11 hours
- Teens between 14 and 18 years: Need 8-10 hours
Research published in the US-based Sleep Research Society’s journal Sleep looked at 10,000 children around the world and found that those who had a regular bedtime routine had an earlier bedtime, fell asleep faster, and slept better.
The process of establishing a regular bedtime ought to be supported by foods to help kids sleep. Research shows that eating less fiber, more saturated fats, and more sugar is associated with disrupted and less restorative sleep. In contrast, eating the right foods leads to more time spent in the stage of deep, slow-wave sleep.
Foods to help kids sleep
With a little attention and effort, dietary changes can not only help to improve children’s sleep patterns, but overall wellbeing, too. There are many foods that have a calming, soporific effect, easing children into a nourishing night’s sleep.
Here are a few simple recipes:
1. Cherry & Almond Smoothie Bowl
- Cherries are a natural source of melatonin, the chemical that controls the body’s internal clock to regulate sleep.
- Combined here with bananas and almonds, this recipe provides magnesium, potassium, and tryptophan to promote a healthy night’s sleep.
For the smoothie:
- 2 ½ cups frozen tart cherries
- 2 tbsp 100% maple syrup
- 1 ripe banana
- 1 cup organic almond milk
For the topping:
- A mix of dried blueberries, goji berries, cranberries, and blackberries
- Coconut flakes (a little)
- 1 tbsp sliced almonds
- 1 tbsp chopped pistachios
- For the smoothie, blend together the tart cherries, lemon juice, maple syrup, banana, and almond milk. You can add additional milk if required for a smoother consistency.
- Pour into two bowls and top with your choice of toppings. Serve immediately.
2. Oats & Seeds Protein Crackers
- These super-simple yet surprisingly tasty crackers are jam-packed with stress-reducing and soporific nutrients like magnesium, Omega-3 fatty acids, and tryptophan.
- They make a great alternative to white flour crackers and are extremely high in fiber and protein.
- For kids, they make a great snack before bed with either cottage cheese or banana slices for that extra nudge towards the land of nod.
- ¼ cup chia seeds
- ¼ cup flaxseeds
- ¼ cup cashew nuts
- ¼ cup pumpkin seeds
- ¼ cup sunflower seeds
- 1 cup rolled oats, processed to flour
- 1 heaped tbsp buckwheat flour (or coconut/wholewheat flour)
- A pinch of salt
- 2 tbsp virgin coconut oil (or olive oil)
- ¼ cup water, added gradually
- Pre-heat oven to 140°C. Process all the nuts and seeds in a powerful blender, until coarse flour-like, but be careful not to over-process to a paste.
- In a large bowl, mix all the dry ingredients together. Add the coconut oil and then gradually add the water, mixing constantly until a soft but not sticky dough forms. You can add more water if it’s too dry or more buckwheat flour if too wet.
- Let the mixture stand for 10-15 minutes. Divide into two halves. Roll out each half onto silicone baking sheets or parchment paper until approximately 2-3mm thick. Use a sharp knife to scour into square or rectangular crackers.
- Place in the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes or until beginning to brown.
- When ready, let them cool down and then serve.
3. Asparagus, Salmon & Pumpkin Rice Bowl
- Omega-3 fatty acids (from the salmon) help to reduce the stress hormone cortisol.
- This dish is rich in high-fiber pumpkin and brown rice that will keep the kids feeling full.
- It’s also rich in melatonin-boosting tryptophan and sleep-inducing magnesium, Vitamin B6, and potassium.
- 500 gm pumpkin, peeled and chopped into bite-size pieces
- 1 tbsp oil
- 2 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 bunch asparagus spears, trimmed
- 2 salmon fillets
- 2 tsp honey
- 200 gm cooked brown rice
- 1 tbsp peanuts, chopped
- 4 sprigs coriander
- Squeeze of lemon
- Heat the oven to 220C/200ºC. Toss the pumpkin, oil, cumin, chilli and a pinch of salt in a large oven tray and roast for 25 minutes. Meanwhile, rub the ginger over the salmon and drizzle with honey.
- After 25 minutes, add the asparagus and salmon to the pan and cook for a further 10 minutes.
- Once cooked, put the pumpkin, asparagus, and rice in a bowl, top with a salmon fillet, the chopped peanuts and coriander. Squeeze a little lemon over everything. Serve.
4. Banana Walnut Bread
- The combination of carbohydrate, tryptophan, and muscle-relaxing magnesium and potassium makes this whole grain banana bread recipe the perfect comforting, snooze-inducing bedtime snack for kids.
- It’s high in fiber, which is also associated with a more restorative slow-wave sleep.
- 1/3 cup virgin coconut oil (melted)
- ¼ cup raw honey
- 2 organic eggs
- 2 ripe bananas, mashed
- ¼ cup almond/coconut milk
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ¼ tsp rock salt
- 1 tsp cinnamon powder
- 1 ¾ cups stone-ground whole wheat flour
- ½ cup walnuts, chopped
- Pre-heat oven to 160°C. Brush a 9x5 inch loaf pan with coconut oil.
- In a large bowl, mix the honey, oil, eggs, mashed banana, and milk. Add the vanilla, salt, cinnamon and baking soda.
- Stir in the flour gradually to ensure no clumps of flour. Pour into loaf pan and bake for 50-60 minutes. Check after 40 minutes though, as some ovens are stronger. If a skewer comes out clean, and it’s starting to brown on top, then it’s ready.
4. Kiwi-Chia Pudding
- The sleep-promoting effects of kiwi fruit are attributed to serotonin, a chemical that helps regulate your sleep cycle.
- The anti-inflammatory antioxidants in kiwi fruits, like Vitamin C and carotenoids, also contribute to their sleep-promoting effects.
- Chia seeds are packed with tryptophan, which raises melatonin and serotonin levels, which support stable sleep. Kids will enjoy the texture and taste of this pudding.
- ¼ cup chia seeds
- 1 cup unsweetened almond or coconut milk
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 3 kiwi fruits, peeled + 1 kiwi fruit, peeled and sliced
- Coconut flakes
- Combine chia seeds, milk, maple syrup and vanilla in a glass container or mason jar and let it sit for at least one hour or overnight in the fridge.
- Remove chia pudding from the fridge and give the mixture a good stir, making sure the chia seeds have absorbed most of the liquid and created a thick gel-like consistency. Taste and add more maple syrup, if needed.
- Place three kiwi fruits in a blender and process until pureed. Save the remaining sliced kiwi fruit for topping your pudding.
Giving children a diet that promotes sleep is beneficial for their cognitive abilities and physical development. It’s also good for their academic performance. And finally, when children fall asleep quickly and stay asleep all night, it allows the parents to get some rest, too.
So, go ahead and try these 5 easy food recipes for children, for a yummilicious experience.
- Your wellness Recipes by Nutritionist Francine White